Historically, minority ethnic groups in the United States have faced discrimination, marginalization, and multiple environmental hazards. At the same time, their female representatives were exposed to even greater challenges including health disparities and difficulties in personal, gender, and cultural identity determination. To explore this problem more in-depth, the present paper will summarize the evidence on the issues which Asian/Pacific American, Muslim American, and Native American women encounter living in the country.
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In her article, Muslim American Women in the United States: What is Considered Muslim Enough?, Seren Karasu states that Muslim women are widely stereotyped because the intragroup diversity of the given minority population is not recognized in the US society. The common stereotype suggests that to be a truly religious Muslim female, a woman must strictly follow the institutionalized Islamic standards commanding the way she should behave, dress, and socialize (Karasu 2). Thus, a Muslim woman who does not wear a Hijab can be discriminated against by both in-group and out-group members as she is not perceived as a representative Muslim. At the same time, the fact that the quality of a person’s faith is defined by the extent to which she adheres to rules raises major concerns because it creates barriers to the development and expression of both religious and gender identity. Karasu suggests that the acknowledgment of intragroup diversity among Muslim women can help solve this problem.
Cultural and historical-political factors to which minority women and immigrants were and continue to be exposed in the United States (as well as their homelands before immigration) contribute to the creation of health disparities within the population. For example, in the article Asian/Pacific American Women and Cultural Diversity: Studies of the Traumas of Cancer and War, Ito et al. explore the links between immigrant women’s health beliefs, overall culturally-defined mentality, and pre-immigration experiences, and the prevalence of the intragroup health problems. The authors note that the Asian/Pacific American female population is highly diverse. Thus, different subgroups are associated with distinct health disparities. Moreover, they respond to diseases and perceive illnesses differently as well. For example, Ito et al. note that Southeast Asian immigrant women frequently experienced sexual abuse during the war and life in refugee camps (317). The problem is that females raised in Southeast Asian cultures typically tend to blame themselves for being exposed to sexual abuse and rarely disclose adverse incidents. As a result, they frequently suffer from psychological distress and mental disorders including PTSD.
Similar findings are provided in the article Old Woes, Old Ways, New Dawn: Native American’s Health Issues by Ann Metcalf. After reviewing the history of Native American rights and policies, including those related to healthcare, Metcalf concludes that such a prevalent health disparity in Native American women as alcoholism is determined by both genetic and socio-cultural factors: “a history of oppression, forced acculturation, low educational achievement,” and many others (288). Healthcare providers should have a profound understanding of risk factors defining the health of Native American females, and their way of interaction should not be biased by the “drunken Indian” stereotype (Metcalf 289). Thus, as the author observes, culturally sensitive and, community-based intervention programs have a greater chance to address the problem of alcoholism in the given population effectively.
The reviewed articles shared some common themes of gender inequality and discrimination of minority women in the United States. The findings suggest that to understand the disparities faced by those females in the country deeper, it is important to acknowledge the intragroup cultural diversity and acknowledge the significance of socio-cultural factors in defining individuals’ health, beliefs, and identity formation. Based on this, it is possible to conclude that the development of multicultural competence in professional working with minority and socially discriminated population groups is key to the achievement of better intervention outcomes.